Endemic species, the Western Leopard Toad (WLT) lives and breeds in wetlands and gardens of the low-lying regions of Cape Town and surrounds. They are under serious threat of becoming extinct and it is up to us to help prevent this.
The WLT (Amietophrynus pantherinus) gets its name, the Leopard Toad because of the distinctive brown rosettes outlined in yellow on its body similar to a leopard’s spots. Other distinguishing features include two brown glands on the head behind the eyes and sometimes they have a light coloured line down the spine. The WLT is larger than other toads in the area – females can be up to 140 mm long.
Apart from being an excellent insect controller, presence of the WLT indicates healthy biodiversity in the area. Development of its natural habitat has resulted in it becoming endangered.
Additional threats involve polluted wetlands and exotic and alien bird and fish species that prey on the tadpoles and young toads. When toads roam during the breeding season (July – September), many of them become road kill. Another significant threat to the Leopard Toad is the discovery of the invasive Guttural toad. Both toads look similar, but do not co-exist naturally and can lead to complications in saving the Leopard toad. The City of Cape Town released a detailed description of both toads and how to identify them.
It is paramount that the Guttural toad is removed from the area before it is too late. Citizens are encouraged to report sightings of the toad to [email protected] to help with the removal.
What can you do?
First and foremost, keep an eye out for toads on the roads and in your garden. During July, August and September, watch out for adult toads on the roads as they migrate to their breeding sites, especially at night and when it’s raining. They look like white stones on the road at night. In August, listen out for the toad chorus – for about a week, the males congregate to call and attract females. In August/September, when the eggs hatch, tadpoles are vulnerable to fish and ducks. From October to December, when fingernail sized toadlets search for new territory, many drown in swimming pools or are killed by gardening activities.
- Join a local toad conservation organisation such as www.leopardtoad.co.za or www.toadnuts.ning.com, or contact your local nature reserve and photograph and share your toad photos.
- Meet up with local groups to help toads cross roads during the breeding season.
- Join the annual WLT population census.
- Create a toad-friendly garden: concrete walls are barriers whereas fences allow movement; indigenous gardens are best; avoid using insecticides and herbicides; install a ‘toad saver’ netting device for your swimming pool.
- Never move Leopard Toads from where you find them. Rather contact an expert to avoid any risk.
Members of the public are active on the public Facebook group, The Endangered Western Leopard Toad, which serves as a platform to ask for toad help, share information and stories.
Watch the video below to see how volunteers are making a difference.
The Cape Leopard Toad features in the Endemic Project, an art installation that spotlights the endangered species of the area. If you head out past Kirstenbosch Gardens toward Constantia Nek along Rhodes Drive, you’ll notice signs featuring images of indigenous fauna and flora. Even better if you are taking a slow drive at night, as these ±40 signs light up the stretch of forested road. Link up with VoiceMap for iOS or Android for an informative audio-visual experience.
Where Bergvliet, the Cape Flats, Clovelly, Constantia, Diep River, Fish Hoek, Glencairn, Grassy Park, Hout Bay, Kirstenhof, Kommetjie, Lakeside, Noordhoek, Observatory, Scarborough, Strandfontein, Tokai and Zeekoevlei
Contact The Western Leopard Toad hotline +27 82 516 3602
Photography Josh Adams/HSM Images, The endangered Western Leopard Toad Facebook group